Remove Your Idols
“So I lifted up my eyes towards the north, and there, north of the altar gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance. Furthermore He said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My sanctuary?’” Ezekiel 8: 5-6
Idolatry is based on a lie. The lie goes something like this: if you focus your attention on the idol, and do whatever is required, then you will receive a promised result. In biblical times there were idols that required some sort of payment like an offering of value such as an animal sacrifice, or the fruit of their harvest, or money, and the promised result would be something like favorable weather for growing their crops, that is, sunshine and rain, or protection from blight or insects, etc., or it might be protection from an enemy, or from diseases, or whatever. Or maybe the requirement would be to just pray to the idol and the result would be the answer to the prayer. The bottom line is that it was all a lie. The idol couldn’t produce the promised result.
“Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; they are their own witnesses; they neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing? Surely all his companions would be ashamed; and the workmen, they are mere men.” Isaiah 44:9-11
“They do not know or understand; for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood? He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside and he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’” Isaiah 44: 18-20
This should not be surprising since from the beginning Satan has lied to us in a similar fashion. “Eat of this fruit and you will receive the knowledge of good and evil and be like God” was the first lie. Adam and Eve fell for it and thought they would be like God.
Satan is a liar and is the father of all liars. This world system is controlled by Satan and is based on his lies.
“Jesus said to them (the religious Jews and Pharisees who were seeking to kill Him), ‘if God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but He sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.’” John 8: 42-45
The truth is that this current world that we live in is cursed by God and under the influence of Satan. As a result of this, we will never find complete happiness or fulfillment here in this world. Our hope is for when Jesus returns and removes the curse, destroying this current system and establishing a new system. Until that occurs, there is no chance of changing or correcting the curse, there is no chance of creating a utopia here on earth, and all efforts to do so are based on lies.
Of course for us Christians who have been forgiven and reconciled to God, and now have this hope of His return, we have a promise of His protection and help while we are passing through this world. We have a happiness and joy, but it is not based on our surroundings or circumstances, it is based on our inner peace, and our spiritual understanding, and our freedom from the bondage of this world.
Unfortunately, the lies of Satan that cause idolatry can still be a problem for the Christian. Either the past lies that we believed when in the world still remain and need to be removed, or we have been tempted and deceived as Christians by the clever lies of the enemy. Regardless, we need to reject them.
In the eighth chapter of the book of Ezekiel, God shows Ezekiel a vision of the idolatry that the Israelites were partaking in back in Jerusalem. Ezekiel was a priest who was among the Jewish exiles carried away to Babylon. God was using Ezekiel as a prophet to remind His people of the abominations that had caused them to be led captive in the first place. There were four types of idolatry that Ezekiel was shown. I would like to take a deeper look at each of them in the future, but for now, let’s look at the first, the “image of jealousy”.
“He stretched out the form of a hand, and took my by a lock of my hair; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the image of jealousy was, which provokes to jealousy (or arouses the Lord’s jealousy). And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the vision that I saw in the plain. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, lift your eyes now towards the north.’ So I lifted my eyes towards the north, and there, north of the altar gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance.” Ezekiel. 8:3-5
Notice that the image was placed at the entrance of the north altar gate. The main entrance to the inner court of the temple was on the east side, but this north gate was where the people brought the animals to be sacrificed on the altar. The image seemed to be a distraction to the altar, a distraction to the sacrifices that were being made to the Lord. Instead of focusing on the sacrifices that needed to be made to the Lord, the focus was taken by this image, and it caused the Lord to be jealous.
If we consider that our bodies now have become the temple of the Spirit of God, and in our inner man we have an “altar” upon which we put to death all the things of the flesh that pertain to this world and this world system, it is safe to see the “image of jealousy” in Ezekiel’s vision to represent anything that distracts us or steals our focus from the death of our flesh.
“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
I think that the key here is that the idol is the distraction. It has taken the focus of the Christian’s heart. Rather than focusing on dying to this world and placing hope totally in the promise of heaven and Jesus’ return, the focus becomes something in this life that offers happiness, fulfillment, satisfaction, success, fame, fortune, or whatever. But it is a lie and will never come to fruition. It doesn’t matter what this promised future situation is, even if it is “good” or “holy” or “Christian” or “loving”. It could be a marriage, or a ministry, or retirement, or a job, or a new house. All these are good things but they will not come through on what they promise if we are holding them as the focus of our lives, taking the place of God’s promise of eternal life with Him.
The truth is, that these things that become our focus are feeding a part of our “flesh” and not allowing us to place that “flesh” on the altar. We must be honest with ourselves and see the truth of our motives. Allow the Holy Spirit to convict (show us clearly) us of the truth.
I have recently, within the past few years, heard much about a teaching regarding the idea of having the kingdom of God come now, physically, before the return of the Lord Jesus. The teaching says that we Christians can set up the kingdom of God here and now with the power and miracles and authority over the devil and the world, and then we would just “hand over the keys”, so to speak, when Jesus does return. The danger of this teaching, besides the fact that it doesn’t align with what is clearly taught in the Scriptures regarding the end times and the worsening of this world’s moral conditions until the Lord returns, is that this idea of a “kingdom now” steals our focus away from heaven, and feeds our flesh.
I recently heard of quote from C.S. Lewis regarding the efforts to change this cursed world: “If the eggs are bad, no matter how much you stir them up, you won’t get a good omelet.” I agree that any attempt to create a utopia in this current world system is doomed to fail and will simply take the focus of our hearts.
“…but lay up your treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will you heart be also.” Matt. 6:20-21
We must sincerely and honestly examine ourselves to see if we have something placed in our “north altar gate” causing our focus to shift from dying to this world and living for heaven. Anything there must be removed immediately. Any pain associated with this removal will be worth it in the light of eternity.
Notice also, in verse 6 of Ezekiel 8, that this image of jealousy, that was provoking God to jealousy, had caused the presence of the Lord to depart from the sanctuary.
“Furthermore, He said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far from My sanctuary?’” Ez. 8:6
Ironically, it could be that the focus on seeking God’s power here in this world as promoted by the “kingdom now” teaching, since it is a distraction from the true focus that Christians should have on dying to this world and seeking heaven and eternal life, will become an “image of jealousy” and will cause the presence of God to depart from them and push away the very power that they are seeking.
If we want to know the presence of God in our life, if we want to hear His voice and know His direction, if we want to know His power and protection, we must keep our focus clearly and fully on His promises, awaiting His return as faithful stewards of His household, doing what is required of us and what pleases Him, with a full expectation of His return to reward us for our faithfulness and to remove the curse.
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation had been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8: 18-25